Is Your Dog Cool?

July 11, 2012 | By Amy Lieberman | Category: Heroes
Tags: care & safety, recalls & alerts, heroes, charity, health & wellness

My Dog is Cool Campaign encourages pet lovers to step up advocacy.

On a hot summer day in 2007, Brattleboro, Vermont resident Barry Adams saw a dog, visibly in distress, alone inside a locked car. He called animal control, and an officer temped the car at 106 degrees Fahrenheit -- but would not let the dog out of the car.

Adams, a registered nurse, says that he has never been an animal activist, but he found the incident to be transformative and traumatic.

"I thought a lot about why people walk away and why people don't act [in situations like this,] and how we view animals," Adams explained.

He soon thereafter received an Animal Protection Institute, or API ticket, encouraging pet owners to not leave their dogs in cars on warm, or hot days. It was enough to jumpstart Adams' full-fledged, local campaign to put an end to this practice.

Adams got in touch with the Sacramento, Calif.-based crisis-focused organization RedRover, and found the support network he was seeking. RedRover is growing a campaign, dubbed My Dog is Cool, across the country, reaching out to pet owners and lovers to combat the deep-seeded problem of leaving dogs in hot cars, which it says is both difficult to track and stop.

Adams counts as one of the campaign's most involved volunteers who has made various impacts, like getting the town of Brattleboro to implement educational materials about health hazards of leaving dogs hot cars on all dog license application forms and dog license renewal forms. The forms also refer dog owners to the campaign's website, MyDogisCool.com.

"Although many people are aware of the dangers of a hot car in general, I still think many people do not understand how fast a car can heat up and that dogs tolerate heat far worse than people do, so they justify leaving a dog in the car," explained RedRover president Nicole Forsyth.

"People think they won't be gone long or that the windows are cracked or that there's enough shade."

But even if the temperature outside seems mild on a given day, the impact for a dog inside a car on a day like this can be anything but placid. A Stanford University study found that on a day when it was 72 degrees out, a car's internal temperature climbed to 116 degrees within one hour. The study also found that cracking the windows made little difference in the steep internal temperature climb.

In order to spread the word about the various severe, and possibly fatal, health impacts dogs can experience if they are exposed these sorts of high temperatures, RedRover is going on the offense with its MyDogIsCool campaign.

Its inclusive, can-do approach lets people log on to the site and download flyers that say "Don't Leave Me in Here -- It's Hot!" "A Hot Oven or a Hot Car... It's the Same Thing," as well as RedRover's Hot Temperature yellow warning sign, which people can leave in their cars or plaster around town.

People can also take the Cool Dog pledge, which involves them printing out a "My Dog is Cool" pledge certificate and signing it. They then take a picture of their dog with the certificate and e-mail it over to RedRover, which will post it on its website.

Between 2010 and 2011 RedRover saw a 33 percent increase in visits to MyDogIsCool.com, according to Forsyth, and last year, 362 people ordered educational materials from the website.

RedRover relies heavily on its 3,000 volunteers across the country to make up for its relatively small budget of about $1.4 million, annually, according to Forsyth.

More than 200 people have taken the My Dog Is Cool pledge. This summer, RedRover is planning to take their advocacy efforts up a notch by launching a formal volunteer program, known as the Cool Crew.

Members of the Cool Crew will represent the campaign through social media channels, like by potentially reaching out to local television and radio stations, and network with other Cool Crew members to share advocacy ideas.

"What we are doing is trying to tap into these groups of people who share ideas and essentially get support in a much bigger way, so that they can act as mentors and inspire others to do the same," said Karen Brown, of RedRover, who is helping head the campaign.

Its message will also be broadcasted in a major way this summer in New York City's Times Square, as RedRover will be airing a Public Service Announcement on the CBS "Super Screen" in the traffic-heavy commercial area.

For someone like Adams, his position as a My Dog is Cool Campaign volunteer now factors into his everyday activities. He always keeps a large supply of posters in both his car and truck and posts them wherever he can to spread awareness, and has authored various articles to two local newspapers on the topic.

The proud owner of two Chihuahuas, Taco Lee and Chili-Bob Maloney, says that dog owners don't always respond to his efforts positively.

"I'm still waiting to hear, 'Oh, thank you! I am so happy to know a stranger is thinking of my dog, and not about ME, ME, ME!'" he explained.

But he remains committed to spreading the word.

"I will never walk away from a dog in a car if I feel the dog is in danger or might be in the future," Adams explained.

Are you planning to join the My Dog is Cool Campaign? How do you think people can get the word out about pet safety in hot weather? Tell us below!

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